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Ten Foot Mailbag: Talking To Kids About Boston And Apologizing To PSU Fans

A member of the bomb squad investigates a suspicious item on the road near Kenmore Square after two bombs exploded during the 117th Boston Marathon.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

A member of the bomb squad investigates a suspicious item on the road near Kenmore Square after two bombs exploded during the 117th Boston Marathon. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

Tim Baffoe - clean background Tim Baffoe
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his de...
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By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) It was a really, really, really, really, really, really bad week to say the least. Chicagoans should count themselves lucky that it was mostly just our commutes and basements that were ruined. Unless you were floating inside a bus or swallowed by a sinkhole or thrown into the air by a street geyser.

Weekend. At least we’re not Cleveland.

On to your correspondence. There is some editing of the emails this week due to both volume and profanity.

how do you handle something like today in a classroom setting?—@Justin_Cornille

“Today” being the Boston Marathon bombing. In my classroom I approach such a heinous event in much the same way I approach the reading of any piece of literature dealing with heavy material. Coincidentally my classes were reading The Things They Carried and Night, books that deal with the horrors of the Vietnam War and the Holocaust respectively. Teens have a disconnect with tragedy that doesn’t directly impact their lives (we all do, I guess, but adults tend to try to find a connection between themselves and the tragedy and make it more personal). So they know the Holocaust and planting bombs at the end of a race are awful, but there is little tangible about it for them.

And that is largely our fault as a society because we don’t try to talk to teens or even ignore them when they do give their opinions. We’ve made them distant. As a teacher I’m amazed almost daily for how underestimated many kids are for their grasp of the world around them. What I’ve learned to do is let them be people, i.e. listen to their opinions and answer their questions the best I can. That includes being honest with them and allowing them to be honest. When a safe and controlled yet candid environment is allowed, you’d be amazed what kids can produce via discussion. They really appreciate the respect of being allowed to be honest and then reciprocate with respect, and they hate being censored and will resist or shut down if that happens.

So I opened my Tuesday classes up to discussion. Students were allowed to ask questions about the bombing and give opinions, and I very much stressed the importance in the aftermath of such an event of dealing with what is actually known rather than conjecture and assumptions. In the end, it was productive.

Which sort of segues into the next issue, which is the need for me to apologize to members of the Penn State community. My column on Monday dealt with the rise in football donations despite all the negativity surrounding the program. I’ve never received so much response from PSU folks from a piece as this one. The majority of tweets and emails offered no real substance. They incorrectly called what I wrote “an article,” cursed at me, missed my point completely, and went out of their way to justify their unhealthy obsession with a college football team. The typical “I can’t form a cogent thought so I’ll discredit you based on a college you went to”:

Brain Droppings? A perfect description for the [fornicating] crap you write.  You attended the University of Iowa…I had a much higher opinion of Iowa before I read your crap.GRD PSU 1979—George Dunn

Or the always intelligent “I’m superior to you because you deliver pizza”:

You deliver pizzas and write lazy, uninformed [pepperoni]?  Your stoned, GED-waving pizza delivering colleagues are probably ashamed by what you are doing to bring down your shared “profession”. Thanks for the laugh though. — Chris F.

Not all responses were vulgar, and a few were even attempts at rational discourse, and I always appreciate such feedback on anything I write. But several people also pointed something out to me that I need to address and for which offer a mea culpa.

Actually Penn State just reallocated the way they recognize revenue for club seats. The donations “to football” is actually a change in accounting. Great job bashing on the school and not understanding the issue.—Kevin Ripp

All your B.S. and as is typical for the media, jumping to conclusions and shooting your mouth off about something you apparently knew nothing about. It was all about accounting treatments . . . .  –Porter May

I thought in reading another story about donations, it was reported that the biggest reason for discrepancy was a change in how donations were reported. I could be wrong, but I thought that’s what I saw.—Brian Hall

These people are correct (and, notice, less vulgar and hostile). When writing the column, I was not aware that Penn State had come out and said that the spike in football donations “was due to a reallocation of how suite and club seat revenues were categorized and recorded, so that it was more accurately reflected as football donation revenue.” That bit of info escaped me at the time, honestly, and I apologize for not including it in my column. Supporters of Penn State have every right to be angry and critical of such an omission, and I fully understand this will be a citing point in the future for any of my detractors, particularly when I write anything else on PSU (which I likely will). To those of you who respectfully pointed out my error, for which I take full responsibility, and to those who otherwise enjoy my work here, I sincerely apologize. You deserve better. Those of you who just chose to curse and try to offend me get no apology; rather, I wish you all suffer bizarre fishing accidents.

That said, I stand by the crux of the column—there is still a problem with the football culture in Happy Valley and at other schools. Even if the majority of the donations were actually seating money and the school is not attempting some spin on this, shouldn’t they understand how bad that overall number would look and the inevitable reaction of sane people to it? I am still troubled that football donations were still as high as they were even after disregarding the new seating allocations. The vehemence of many responses I’ve received that didn’t even mention those allocations or football donations at all but instead focused on cancer charities or attempts to compare PSU to other schools in academics, job placement, etc. is the most troubling thing, mostly because they’re either missing the point or refusing to consider it. Again, these are not all the responses, but they are the majority. That’s not a good thing.

Thanks for emailing, tweeting, and reading. If your question did not get answered this time, that does not necessarily mean I am ignoring it. It may be saved for the next mailbag. Hopefully you’re a slightly better person now than you were ten minutes ago. If not, your loss.

Want your questions answered in a future Mailbag? Email them to tenfootmailbag@gmail.com or tweet them with the hashtag #TFMB. No question, sports or otherwise, is off limits (with certain logistical exceptions, e.g. lots of naughty words or you type in Portuguese or you solicit my death). If you email, please include a signature.

tim baffoe small Ten Foot Mailbag: Talking To Kids About Boston And Apologizing To PSU Fans

Tim Baffoe

Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at tenfootmailbag@gmail.com. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.